The skimmer from another… dimmer? Hmm, this rhyme does not seem to have worked out as well as I had hoped. Well, anyways, it’s the Piranha! Click to read the updated CA2018 article, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The original chassis of the Piranha was not actually a combat vehicle- in fact, it was a light transport used to shuttle VIPs such as Ethereals from point to point; it is supposed that other civilian variants may exist as well. The TX4 version, however, is the military modification of the vehicle and it serves as a light scout, raider, and fast-response unit that acts in support of forward elements of the Tau army, especially Pathfinders and Strike Teams. As these elements often lack the firepower to deal with enemy armor or concentration of troops, Piranhas are a welcome sight to such units when they are under siege.
On the battlefield, Piranhas fit in neatly to the class of light vehicles such as Land Speeders or Vypers. With 1 6″ movement they are among the speediest of units seen on the battlefield (short of Flyers, of course), and they boast a respectable defensive statline with toughness five, six wounds, and a 4+ save (though any kind of concentrated firepower will make short work of them.) Like all vehicles they are comically inept in close combat, but they otherwise have the standard Tau ballistic skill of 4+ on the offensive side. Piranhas can be taken in units of one to five models, with each Piranha starting with a pair of Gun Drones onboard. Beware, however- Piranhas are not immune to morale checks and are only leadership 6, so even a single casualty puts you in danger of losing extra models from the squad. At 58pts apiece, Piranhas are on the bottom end of what you’ll see vehicles coming in at, although they still are more expensive than something like a Scout Sentinel or the like.
Special Rules and Options
Piranhas don’t have a lot of rules- they can Explode (dealing one mortal wound to each unit within 3″) when they die; awkwardly, this means they will damage any other members of their squad when they do so. They also follow the usual rules for embarked drones, namely that they must start the game onboard the Piranha and the vehicle can use their weapons as long as they remain so, but once they disembark they can never re-enter it. Note that unlike in previous editions, the drones from each Piranha disembark as a separate unit and are not automatically removed as casualties when it is destroyed (instead rolling as one would for passengers in the usual fashion.) Piranhas also do not have any sort of special “hover vehicle” rule or any such, which means that distances will always be measured to the model’s base and never to the model itself; as the base is significantly smaller than the Piranha, this is often a bit weird.
Each Piranha starts with a single Burst Cannon (18″ S5 AP0 Assault 4) as its main armament, though it can swap that out for a Fusion Blaster (18″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Assault 1) for +10pts if you wish. Although the Fusion Blaster is a tad pricey for such a fragile chassis, the ability to distribute such weapons across a number of fast-moving targets definitely has some value. You can also add up to two Seeker Missiles (72″ S8 AP-2 DmgD6) to the vehicle, which like all such missiles are one-use weapons that require two or more Markerlights to fire (and preferably four, in order to negate the Heavy penalty.) I find this to be a much more useful option, as it gives you some alpha-strike potential with the unit that can’t easily be ignored, but at a lower cost than the Fusion while maintaining your other roles. Of course, combining the two is also an option, which gives you a vehicle that can potentially one-shot a Land Raider for a very low price… once.
Each of the two Gun Drones comes with a pair of Pulse Carbines (18″ S5 AP0 Assault 2), meaning that the basic loadout gives you twelve S5 shots on the move. S5 isn’t generally what Tau are lacking, but the ability to rapidly project it forward and respond to enemy maneuver is definitely nice.
Before we get into all of this, let’s be clear: while the Piranha is a perfectly servicable little vehicle, it’s definitely not a contender for top tables at any events in the near future, most especially because of the variety of heavy-hitting anti-tank shooting that is out there. However, that doesn’t mean they’re completely useless. As fast movement-blockers, they are a unit par excellence. The combination of a fairly large model for their points along with the ability to get across the field quite quickly (while also still being able to contribute some firepower) is a definite advantage, and unlike many blocking units they dump a little baby squad of drones onto the field when they die, which can further hinder the enemy.
Having a significant amount of anti-infantry firepower is also a nice bonus, and depending on upgrades you can turn it into a pretty good amount of anti-vehicle firepower as well. The Seeker Missile upgrade in particular can add a lot of value, especially when running with Sa’cea sept. Although one or two basic missiles isn’t a lot of firepower on its own, it is very possible to equip most or all of the vehicles in a Tau army with such weapons, enabling a pretty devastating alpha strike.
The real value of a Piranha, though, isn’t in its firepower- because a Strike Team puts out a similar number of shots for half the price. No, the biggest advantage to the Piranha is its fast movement and ability to jump in and out of combat as needed. Controlling the movement phase of the game is critical to success in Warhammer, and if you can selectively block off portions of the field from the enemy, get on objectives when you want to, and hold enemies down in combat (even for just a single turn), you can potentially change a whole game. While it may not have great defensive stats, a Piranha is typically tough enough to last against most small squads (especially those not optimized for melee combat) and thus can buy you a turn where that unit can’t charge the more important parts of your army- and every Tau general should know how crucial controlling charges is.
Although they aren’t exceptional at it, Piranhas can also be useful as forward objective-grabbers, able to get to those objectives in the early and mid game when Tau otherwise struggle to be scoring effectively. Of course, lacking Objective Secured as well as any real durability in the face of enemy firepower, they are often hard-pressed to do this job in anything but a suicidal fashion, but if you have the bottom of turn then it can be a good way to eke out some extra points that may be able to turn a close game in your favor.
Also, although it is typically better to leave the drones embarked onboard the vehicle in order to maximize their firepower, there are definitely times when you will want to get them out preemptively. If you expect the Piranha to be destroyed, disembarking the drones prevents any awkward casualties and thus ensures they stick around to survive that little bit longer; splitting them off also gives you the option of sending them off towards another target while the Piranha does its own thing (often a suicidal thing.) Disembarked drones can also be used in the way that all drones are, to tank hits for your suits or infantry to keep them alive longer; in this sense, the Piranha chassis is actually quite cheap, since 24pts of it (a full third of the cost and then some) is actually tied up in Gun Drones that are still functional outside of what the Piranha does.
A list that wants to use Piranhas well will probably be fairly heavily mechanized, making use of Devilfish as well as Hammerheads or Skyrays and possibly some of the bigger battlesuits (Riptides, Ghostkeels) as well; the more big targets you can present, the better. It also wants a decent number of Strike Teams or other infantry around for the Piranha to protect as needed, and likely wants to run a goodly number of Markerlights as well in order to launch that first-turn volley of Seeker Missiles. Although they benefit a lot from being Sa’cea sept, Vior’la is also good, and of course Tau is never a bad choice.
Stopping Piranhas really isn’t that hard- if you have mid-strength guns with multiple damage, or even just S5+ weapons in bulk, then you can drop them pretty easily. Piranhas rely heavily on being tough enough that anti-infantry weapons aren’t greatly effective on them, but for factions that can get stronger shots (e.g. Tau) or that can get extremely large numbers of shots (e.g. Guard), they will still go down. Midrange shots like those of an Autocannon are also a nightmare for them, as are units with decent assault weapons- the Piranha can fall back, but this typically takes it off of the objective it wanted to hold or out of position for protecting the rest of the army. Kill them like you would any other light vehicle and you’ll be just fine; these sorts of units really aren’t much of a threat in the current meta at all.
Piranhas, although one of my favorite units in 40K, are sadly not in a great place right now and it’s not likely that they will see a price change anytime soon to fix that, as they’re just not a popular unit. Still, they hold a special place for me and I hope for the day when they become good again- perhaps getting a 5+ invulnerable save or -1 to hit penalty for their speed/maneuverability, But compare them to something like a Venom and they look very poor indeed, as that’s the gold standard of light vehicles these days and the other forms are all but obsolete as things stand.
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